NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing a diverse pool of biomedical scientists through a variety of institutional training and student development programs. Based on stakeholders’ feedback through Requests for Information (NOT-GM-15-108; NOT-GM-17-017), as well as extensive analyses and discussions with NIH staff and the community, we intend to make adjustments to our programs designed to enhance the diversity in the biomedical research workforce. The modifications, which the NIGMS Council recently approved, are designed to: 1) provide equity of trainee support across programs; 2) prevent programmatic overlap; 3) align the funding strategies with the programmatic goals; 4) tailor expectation of outcomes, support mechanisms, and review considerations according to the institution’s level of research activity; and 5) strengthen our ability to evaluate the success of the programs. The changes, described in more detail in the recent Videocast of the Council Open Session, will impact the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, and the Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC U-STAR) programs. We don’t anticipate any immediate changes to our Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP). Possible adjustments to the Bridges to the Baccalaureate and Bridges to the Doctorate programs are currently under discussion.
Specifically, the modifications are intended to do the following:
- Align the programmatic goals of preparing trainees for careers that have a significant impact on the health-related research needs of the Nation with the funding approach. We’ll accomplish this by transitioning from the Research Education (R25) mechanism to Training (T) mechanisms.
- Provide equity across NIGMS programs for trainee stipends and tuition remission.
- Create separate institutional eligibility tracks for review and funding based on NIH research project grant funding levels. The two tracks include research-intensive, i.e., those with a 3-year average of NIH research project grant (RPG) funding greater than or equal to $7.5 million, and research-active, i.e., those with a 3-year average of RPG funding less than $7.5 million (RPG data are available through NIH RePORTER).
- Continue the MARC (NOT-GM-18-031) program to support the training of research-oriented undergraduates at research-intensive institutions.
- Convert the current RISE research education program into two separate training programs: one to support the training of undergraduates called the Undergraduate Research Initiative for Student Enhancement, or U-RISE (NOT-GM-18-030), and the other to support graduate training towards a Ph.D. called the Graduate Research Initiative for Student Enhancement, or G-RISE (NOT-GM-18-029). RISE masters’ programs are encouraged to apply for our Bridges to the Doctorate Program. RISE programs are intended for research-active institutions.
- Convert the current IMSD research education program into an IMSD (NOT-GM-18-028) training program that supports graduate training towards a Ph.D. at research-intensive institutions. IMSD programs that currently support undergraduates are encouraged to apply for the MARC or U-RISE program, depending on the institutional eligibility.
- Minimize the duplication of diversity-focused NIGMS programs. Each institution will be eligible for one diversity-focused undergraduate program (either MARC or U-RISE) and one diversity-focused graduate program (either IMSD or G-RISE).
- Tailor the programs and review considerations to the specific strengths and needs of research-active and research-intensive institutions and their students.
- Enhance the capacity for NIGMS to monitor and evaluate program outcomes.
The funding announcements for these four programs to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce will encourage applications from training programs that do the following: focus on skills development (including an emphasis on quantitative and computational skills); promote rigor and reproducibility in research; teach the responsible and safe conduct of research; create inclusive, safe, and supportive research environments; use evidence-based, innovative educational and mentoring practices; employ cohort-building activities and interventions that enhance the trainees’ science identity and self-efficacy; provide individualized mentoring and oversight throughout the trainees’ undergraduate or graduate careers; and introduce trainees to a variety of scientific research areas and career trajectories.
For institutions with currently funded IMSD, RISE, and MARC programs, the policies and guidance in the FOA (under which the existing programs were funded) will apply until the end of the current funding cycle. NIGMS intends to release the MARC, U-RISE, IMSD, and G-RISE funding announcements in the fall of 2018. All applications for these programs must be submitted under the new FOAs effective July 1, 2018. NIGMS will conduct extensive outreach to provide guidance while institutions and existing programs navigate the transition.
We thank the community for its ongoing feedback. As always, we welcome your comments on the Council-approved plans. Contact(s) for questions: Sailaja Koduri for MARC and IMSD; Anissa Brown for U-RISE; and Luis Cubano for G-RISE.